The Darwin real estate agent the media has labeled a "crooked real estate agent" has been found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 5 years in jail.
By now most people are familiar with the story, as we wrote about here and here: Elders real estate agent Chris Deutrom has been in court over allegations that he misappropriated $237,000 in advertising rebates from the company and used them for personal purposes.
Mr Deutrom, 50, had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He tried to claim he used the money to take employees to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, but his story was inconsistent. When caught out having transferred the money to his own accounts, he apologized profusely to his superiors in the company and said he knew he did wrong.
But then later he walked that back, and said he had panicked at the time and had actually used the money for business purposes.
His legal team claimed that prosecutors had teamed up with Elders management in order to prevent Deutrom from collecting $1 million in claims he had against the company. But seems they had no evidence of either collusion or Mr Deutrom's claim.
Jon Tippet QC, acting for Mr Deutrom, told the court that Deutrom had turned the company around and made it profitable, so Elders could not be called a "victim".
"The difference in this case is that the victim is an ASX company, there are no catastrophic financial circumstances.
"The company can't come along and cry tears of blood after having a business turned around."
Prosecutor David Morters SC, however, said Mr Deutrom's actions amounted to "abject greed".
"Funding a very lavish lifestyle, a magnificent house, a credit card in his wife's name that burnt through the cash."
Yesterday, it all finally caught up with Mr Deutrom. The jury took only 2 hours to find him guilty.
The jury found he knew it was "false" to represent to the advertisers that he was entitled to receive the money.
Supreme Court Justice Jenny Blokland said Deutrom should have known his conduct was wrong given his business experience, that Deutrom's frauds were "brazen" but not sophisticated, and happened at a time when he was over-committed financially.
"This was obviously not a case of you being impoverished, it would appear to be a case of gross over-commitment."
Justice Blokland said Deutrom gave "fanciful" excuses for his offending, tried to intimidate a whistleblower who had reported to his superiors, and made a "frankly unbelievable" witness. She further said white collar criminals should serve long jail stints in order to deter others from offending.
After hearing the jury's verdict, she called the guilty verdict "unsurprising".
"The deceptions involved a breach of trust of a very high order. You abused that trust in a very serious way."
Outside the court, Helen Deutrom, Chris' wife, maintained her husband's innocence.
"The real injustice here is that taxpayers spent over a million dollars prosecuting this case, that money could've been spent on putting police on the streets, looking after children at risk and keeping violent criminals off the street.
"This is a massive case of injustice, and the justice system is just an absolute joke."
Chris Deutrom was sentenced to five years in jail, with no possibility of parole for two and a half years.
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